Todd Goings

Carousel Carver and Restorationist
A man surrounded by carousel and carvings.

Photo by Kyle C. Goings for Carousel and Carvings, Inc.


Master carousel carver and restorationist Todd Goings has worked for 35 years to keep the art of American carved wooden carousels alive. Built in a handful of master artisan workshops from the 1880s to the 1930s, wooden carousels are participatory folk-art environments that set whimsical carved animals to music and movement in custom-built mechanical frames. Of America’s several-thousand original wooden carousels, just 150 remain. Goings has worked on many of them, and, along the way, has revived the American carousel workshop for a new century.

Raised in the rural village of Caledonia in North Central Ohio, Goings came to carousels through an early passion for woodworking, with jobs in cabinetry, millwork, patternmaking, and eventually, woodcarving. By the 1980s, the sad state of America’s wooden carousels had sparked a revival of carousel conservation across America which, in turn, demanded a rebirth of traditional carousel arts. Goings’ wide-ranging woodworking training was destiny. “It chose me,” he said. “Everything I personally learned, the only place it comes together is on carousels.”

Goings opened Carousels and Carvings—a full-service artisan carousel workshop—in Marion, Ohio, in the 1990s. A century separated from master carousel artists like W.H. Dentzel, Charles I.D. Looff, William F. Mangels, & Marcus Illions, Goings trained himself as a carousel carver through years of restoring the masters’ work. Goings is quick to note that a carousel is more, however, than just a frame for carved menageries: it is an “interactive, rideable piece of art” that keeps a century-old leisure experience alive. Carousels and Carvings is one of only a handful of shops in the country specializing in restoring and building whole carousels: from the carvings to the frame to custom-built mechanicals. Carousels and Carvings has restored dozens of carousels—including Philadelphia’s Woodside Park Carousel, Coney Island’s B&B Carousel, the Memphis Grand Carousel, and the Hydro Oklahoma Carousel—alongside newly built carousels that expand and update tradition with unusual animals and wheelchair-accessible chariots. Like the past masters, Goings’ work takes years. The time is worth it, he said: “In my career, I’ve never taken a carousel down that hasn’t gone back up.” 

Carousels and Carvings provides training and livelihoods to artisans, craftspeople, engineers, and technicians from across North Central Ohio. But Goings’ work doesn’t stop in the shop: every spring, he and his team crisscross the country’s zoos, amusement parks, and fairgrounds for the annual pre-season carousel check-ups that earned him the nickname “the carousel doctor.” For his tireless dedication to keeping carousel traditions alive, Goings’ peers have called him “genius” and “the best in the business.” But for Goings, the magic of the carousel—what makes it all worthwhile—is in its use: it’s folk art you can ride. 

By Jess Lamar Reece Holler, Folklorist, Marion Voices Folklife & Oral History


Carousel horses.

Carousel figures awaiting restoration 2020. Photo credit Jess Lamar Reece Holler, for Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History || Caledonia, Ohio


Rhinocerous new carving. Photo courtesy of artist

Man carving a pigs head.

Todd carving a warthog. Photo credit Jess Lamar Reece Holler, for Marion Voices Folklife + Oral History || Caledonia, Ohio